‘The best way to die is to marry a soldier’, mom had said. Daddy’s attitude was somehow indifferent, I could sense from his reaction that duty calls. He was always nonchalant anytime he receives a call of duty, unlike his usual vivacious and flamboyant lifestyle. He was reserved and quiet. At dusk he packed his military gadgets, his .22 sniper’s rifle and other military armouries, galvanized his gears and set everything ready to go. ‘This would be my last mission in the military and then I shall be back wholely for you, never to fight again’, he said. Only fate knows if you will come back, it occurred to me. He kissed me and mom and bid us adieu. He was a strong fanatic of one of Chesterton’s sayings that, ‘ a true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind’. He will always give you that as answer whenever you ask him why he loves the military service.
Dad and his team of twenty military officers had arrived at the Cherob hills at 0300 hours. As usual, he and his spotter went ahead of their team to find a strategic location against the enemy’s front line. They were surprised to see how an entire military details had vanished at their arrival. Nonetheless, they set their machines in motion. ‘Foxtrot, this is Mike in position, all clear, move in’, dad had announced on his radio. The soldiers moved in, dad was staring at mom’s picture while relating his marital experience with his colleague when the enemy’s soldier took down two of their officers.
Mom was dying at home, all through the night, sleep fled her eyes, wild thoughts flooded her mind. Hallucinations, mirages and shadows accompanied the night. She came to my room, I too was not asleep either, the last mission dad had gone ended in so much casualties on dad’s team. I had some strange feelings that night. Memories of my brother came into mind. Pete had always been a great lover of war games, he never failed to oil dad’s .22 Rifle every morning. He had learnt how to shoot long range sniper’s rifle at sixteen. At eighteen, he had become an expert marksman, ‘I will join daddy in the military when I turn twenty’, he often said. But he never lived to be twenty.
Dad’s military formation had been infiltrated, his team was dismantled. With much frustration, he compromised the laid down sniper’s rule ‘never shoot twice at a target from the same spot’, he killed sixteen enemy soldiers with sixteen shots. At 1900 hours, enemies reinforcement appeared, his team was now left with about seven men. Dad had sent an SOS to their out camp about twenty miles from the front line. He got a respond that their reinforcements were on the way. But unfortunately, their vehicles had hit several IEDs while heading their direction, all troops perished. The remaining seven soldier were now left with a few weapons and MREs, unknown to them they were walking into a mine field. Tired and exhausted, they decided to pass the night in the bush and thus stepping on the land mines which blew them all up into pieces.
Left with only his spotter, dad decided to engage in direct contact with the enemies. He killed several of them but the enemy’s troop was stronger, consequently his spotter was shot twice in the chest. He passed away at that instant. Dad was now left all to himself, he fought on, true soldiers don’t give up, though it is said, that ‘soldiers fought the war, generals get the credit’, dad had always believed in fighting on to the end. The enemies had discovered his hideout and were now surrounding him. He was left with a few magazines. He jumped from the cliff into a warm spring leading to a fast running stream, he was shot thrice at the chest and shoulders.
Dad was not dead, he only lived in our hearts. Some must die that others may live. That was the true saying of heroes.
He passed away due to excess loss of blood, his body was found floating on the edge of the stream. He never returned to us as promised, but it is true, for we don’t die when we live in the hearts of those we leave behind.
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Written by loveday mcjolly.
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